AAHA, hospice association release end-of-life care guidelines

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The American Animal Hospital Association and the International Association for Animal Hospice and Palliative Care have released guidelines on end-of-life care for pets.

End-of-life care and decision-making “embody the critical final stage in a pet’s life and are as important and meaningful as the sum of the clinical care provided for all prior life stages,” according to the abstract for the 2016 AAHA/IAAHPC End-of-Life Care Guidelines.

The Animal Hospice Care Pyramid appears in guidelines on end-of-life care for pets. (Courtesy of AAHA)

The guidelines provide practice teams with the framework and tools to develop a comprehensive, collaborative end-of-life plan and better recognize the needs of patients, clients, and team members during this difficult time.

According to the guidelines:

  • End-of-life care and decision-making are medically, emotionally, and ethically challenging for everyone involved.
  • Studies have shown that 30 percent of pet owners will experience substantial grief following the loss of a pet, and 50 percent will question their decision following euthanasia.
  • Veterinary team members are at higher risk of compassion fatigue when they work with patients nearing their life’s end and their owners and are immersed in an environment of intense emotional and physical suffering, often of extended duration, with little group support.

The guidelines review the latest information to help staff address central issues and perform essential tasks to improve the quality of life of a pet who has entered the final life stage. In addition, these guidelines define the role of each staff member so everyone on the practice team can work together to offer the best-quality medical care.

The sections of the document cover animal versus human hospice care, patient considerations, client considerations, veterinary health care team considerations, and the end-of-life event.

The guidelines appear in the November/December edition of the Journal of the American Animal Hospital Association and are available here.